How To!

How To Live With a Dirty Family Secret

Sometimes you just need to wash your hands of the whole situation.

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Episode Notes

Usually when something enters Rachel’s parents’ home, it never leaves. Growing up, Rachel and her siblings tried to clean out the growing piles of junk, but her mom would often dig into the trash to retrieve whatever was tossed. Rachel finally escaped her parent’s over-stuffed house but she still worries about their safety and quality of life. On this episode of How To!, we bring on Jessie Sholl, author of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding. She knows what it’s like to spend hours decluttering a house teeming with stuff, only to have it come back with a vengeance. Many of us will eventually have to parent our parents, but how do you handle such an extreme case? Jessie explains that hoarding is a mental illness and advises Rachel on how to find agency in a situation that feels so helpless.

If you liked this episode, check out: “How To Avoid Becoming Your Mother.”

Do you have a problem that needs solving? Send us a note at or leave us a voicemail at 646-495-4001 and we might have you on the show. Subscribe for free on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Podcast production by Derek John and Rosemary Belson.


About the Show

What if Dear Abby were an investigative reporter? Each week, Amanda Ripley (bestselling author of High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out) takes on listeners’ toughest problems and, with the help of experts, finds the answers to questions you’ve always wanted to ask but couldn’t. Until now.

Do you have a problem that needs solving? Have you found the advice on our podcast helpful? Send us a note at or leave us a voicemail at 646-495-4001 and we might play it on the air.

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